TIME Sex

Stress Degrades Sperm and Fertility, Study Finds

Men who feel stressed have fewer, slower sperm

Psychological stress may degrade sperm quality and sperm fertility, according to a study published today in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

“Men who feel stressed are more likely to have lower concentrations of sperm in their ejaculate, and the sperm they have are more likely to be misshapen or have impaired motility,” said researcher Pam Factor-Litvak, an epidemiologist at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, in a statement. “These deficits could be associated with fertility problems.”

Researchers studied 193 men ages 38 to 49, who rated how stressed they felt and shared the life events that led to said stress. Life stress degraded the quality of semen even when the scientists accounted for other factors, such as health concerns or previous issues with fertility.

Even though life stress affected the caliber of the sperm, workplace stress did not. However, job strain did lower testosterone levels and therefore could still hurt reproductive health. Unemployed men also had lower sperm quality than employed men, regardless of other stressors.

Scientists don’t know how exactly emotional strain affects semen, but this adds to a body of research examining the many ways emotional stress can take a toll on the body.

TIME Sex

Snapchat CEO Apologizes for Explicit Frat Emails

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Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel poses for photos, in Los Angeles, Oct. 24, 2013. Jae C. Hong—AP

Evan Spiegel says he is "mortified" that emails he sent as a college student were leaked

Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel, 23, who runs an app that erases messages seconds after they have been viewed, has apologized after Gawker leaked emails demeaning to women that he sent as a fraternity brother.

The website’s Valleywag section published emails from 2009 in which Spiegel wrote “F–k Bitches Get Leid [sic]” and encouraged fellow members of Kappa Sigma at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., to receive as much oral sex from women as possible. He also offered a blunt to whoever saw the most breasts in one night.

In an email, Spiegel told Business Insider that he was “mortified” and a “jerk,” adding the emails “in no way” reflect how he views women today.

The leaked messages have surfaced at a time when discussion has come to the fore about whether men should feel entitled to sex. Elliot Rodger, a 22-year-old student at Santa Barbara City College, killed six and injured 13 before taking his own life last week because he was frustrated that he was still a virgin. And the prevalence of sexual assaults on U.S. college campuses is in part fueled by fraternities dominating the social scene and plying minors with alcohol at private parties.

MORE: Why Mass Killers Are Always Male

MORE: The Sexual-Assault Crisis on American Campuses

TIME celebrities

Ellen Page: Creepiness Is a “Systemic Problem” in Hollywood

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Ellen Page at 2014 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on March 2, 2014 in West Hollywood, Calif. Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez / AFP / Getty Images

Those in power often manipulate younger people, the actress says

For an actor, promoting a movie usually requires spending a lot of time talking about his or her character and the world of the film. And, in this week’s TIME, Ellen Page does just that for the new X-Men: Days of Future Past (in theaters this weekend), discussing the way the movie’s worldview meshes with her own and why she might use mutant powers to see what it’s like to be Jay Z.

But sometimes, a movie release coincides with real-life events, and in X-Men‘s case, that something happens to be the recent suit against director Bryan Singer, who has been accused of sexually abusing a minor. (On Wednesday, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Singer filed a motion to dismiss. In a recent cover story for the same publication, Page said that those accusations against Singer were “disturbing” and that “the truth will come out in the way that it does.” But, she told TIME, no matter ends up happening with Singer’s case, there’s a larger issue that we should be talking about instead:

TIME: I read what you’ve said about the allegations against Bryan Singer, and I wonder what’s it like to be asked about those accusations…

Ellen Page: When it has nothing to do with me?

TIME: Yeah.

Page: It’s part of this world and it’s part of what we do and it’s the same with Woody [Allen, who directed Page in To Rome with Love] or whatever. I’ve worked with this person and I happen to be in the movie that’s coming out right now, so of course someone will ask about it. What could I possibly say about it? These are accusations and it’s awful and we’ll find out when we find out, when the process happens. I do think that all of Bryan’s situation aside, I do think there is a systemic problem. Any time young people are in places with people of power around, I do think that’s an important thing to talk about.

TIME: Just in general?

Page: In general and in Hollywood, yeah.

TIME: Is that something you’ve experienced personally?

Page: I grew up on film sets, so yes. I’ve never had any situation that is anything too, you know, but people are creepy and try to manipulate young people and luckily I never had anything too drastic happen.

Such power imbalances, and their “creepy” consequences, have often been seen as a problem that mostly affects those for whom the imbalance is greatest; as my colleague Kate Pickert explained when the Singer scandal first broke, advocates say that the aspirants who have the most to gain and lose are the ones most in danger of predatory quid-pro-quo transactions. But, if Page’s observations hold true across her industry, it sounds like the problem isn’t limited to careers that have yet to break through.

TIME campus sexual assault

What I’m Telling My Son About Drunk Sex and Consent

Talking with a good friend the other day about all the recent attention regarding sexual assault on college campuses—much of it bravely brought to light by coeds who have come forward to tell their stories—we quickly got around to an angle that cuts close to home: What would we tell our teenage sons, who themselves will go off to school in the next few years?

At one point, my friend held up her iPhone and, half in jest, clicked the video button. In order to protect her two boys, she said, she might advise them never to have sex with a girl before getting her consent on the record.

Sexual violence on campus has reached the level of a “crisis” in the words of a recent cover story in Time—one that led the White House last month to issue guidelines raising the pressure on universities to more aggressively combat the problem.

We know that regretted sex and false accusations are undoubtedly the exception, not the rule. Still, as my friend suggested, fabricated claims of rape do happen. And when they do, a young man’s reputation is instantly, and often irreparably, shattered. His freedom may be lost.

Certainly, we need to protect our daughters. But we need to protect our sons, too—especially given the widespread hookup culture and the messy realities of binge drinking and of drunken, casual sex on campus.

Let me be clear: This is not about blaming the victim or diminishing the crime of sexual violence on campus and its rampant mismanagement by universities more concerned with their image than with protecting young women.

But we suddenly live in an era where talking to our sons about condoms and STDs before they begin to have sexual encounters is not enough. We must talk to them frankly about consent—and by this I do not mean just teaching them that “no means no.” As parents, we must explicitly tell them what’s at stake and how to avoid finding themselves in a situation where their actions could possibly be misconstrued as having crossed the line.

With that in mind, there are half a dozen things that I’ll be telling my now-16-year-old son before he heads off to college.

First, I am going to talk to him about consent—something that might well seem murky to an inexperienced, awkward, nonverbal teenager, especially when alcohol is involved. A recent must-read article in Slate—which I will share with my son—makes plain that it’s a crime to have sex with someone who is too drunk to give meaningful consent, even if the young man is not violent and even if the young woman does not physically resist or verbally object.

Lindsey Doe, a clinical sexologist who has created a free YouTube series dubbed “Sexplanations,” lays it out this way: “Consent is not an absence of a no; it is the presence of a yes.” Her fantastic video on the subject, “What is Consent?”, should be watched by every freshman (male or female) before stepping foot on campus.

Second, I will tell my boy that if he’s drunk, he shouldn’t have sex. Period. Doe offers this gem: “If you cannot drive a vehicle you ought not to wield your wiener.”

Third, I will warn him that he should never take advantage of someone who is drunk. Indeed, if he thinks his only shot at having sex with a woman is because she’s smashed, that’s a sure sign he should walk away. This is also a great opportunity to explain to my son that sex is better when it’s with someone you genuinely care about.

Fourth: I know it can be awkward to talk about sex, but I will advise my son to do exactly that. I will tell him, specifically, that before having sex he should talk about it what it means to him (friends with benefits?) and to her (a relationship?) to make sure there is no misunderstanding. And I will tell him that if he’s ever unsure about the signals he’s getting from a coed, he should flat-out ask her if she wants to have sex—all without worrying that doing so is unromantic or unsexy or unappealing in any way.

Fifth, I will tell him to take the newspaper test: If what he is about to do were reported on the front page of the local paper, would it be considered improper behavior—or worse? If so, walk away.

Finally, I will tell my kid that it’s not enough for him to behave appropriately himself. There will be times when he can safely intervene, encouraging a guy to go home and take a cold shower, or escorting a young woman back to her dorm so she can sleep it off. As Charlotte Alter has pointed out on TIME.com, bystander intervention is becoming an important tool in fighting sexual assault on campus. I’ll encourage my son to be one of the good guys.

TIME Sex

Here’s the Real Reason Women Hate Premature Ejaculation

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Peter Dazeley—Getty Images

Men focus too hard on lasting a long time in bed, often to the detriment of their partner

The wives and girlfriends of men who suffer from premature ejaculation are often frustrated—but it’s not for the reason you may think, according to a new study.

A clinical psychologist at the University of Zurich surveyed more than 1,500 women in Mexico, Italy and South Korea and found that women don’t necessarily want intercourse to last longer. “It is not the short duration of the act of lovemaking that is primarily regarded as the main source of sexual frustration by the majority of women, but the fact that the man is focused too strongly on delaying ejaculation. As a result, he ignores the sexual needs of the woman and is unable to satisfy her individual desires,” the study said.

In thinking about the finish line, it’s easy for men to neglect sexually stimulating acts like kissing and caressing, which the women who were surveyed said are equally important to their satisfaction in the bedroom.

TIME motherhood

‘My Husband Wants to Breastfeed:’ The Phenomenon Nobody Talks About But Everyone Googles

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Mother nursing baby son (9-12 months) father leaning on sofa John Howard—Getty Images

Some men are turned on, some are curious, and some are just trying to help out their wives

It’s the suckle that dare not speak its name. In worldwide Google searches, “my husband wants me to breastfeed him” is a more popular search term than “my husband wants to separate” and “my husband wants a baby” combined.

Um, what? Seth Stephens-Davidowitz originally reported these numbers in the New York Times, and most of that breastfeeding search traffic is coming from India. While that doesn’t necessarily mean that breastmilk is becoming a delicacy in India, it does suggest a lot of interest. And it begs the question: is this really a thing?

Absolutely, says Dr. Wendy Walsh, a relationship expert and self-described “dairy queen” who nursed each of her children until they were 3. “Every breastfeeding mother I ever knew said their husband asked to drink it,” she says adding that the father of her child also asked to nurse once in a while.

Drinking human breast milk is enough of a niche fetish that there’s even a whole bar in Japan dedicated to it, where men can either buy shots of milk or get it straight from the nipple. Corky Harvey, who co-founded the Pump Station and Nurtery in Santa Monica, CA, said that when she asked nursing mothers whether their husbands ever tried to breastfeed, two women said they had heard of friends getting this request from their husbands. And one woman said she had been at a party where a man came up and asked if her husband like to “suckle on those breasts.”

“I think with a lot of men, there’s just a curiosity of what it tastes like, and what it would be like to nurse,” said Wendy Haldeman, who co-founded the Pump Station with Harvey. “Certainly men suck on nipples during sex, so they’re gonna get milk.”

But husband breastfeeding can be as much about utility as curiosity. “If the milk is backed up in the breast, and it’s very painful, and sometimes the baby can’t get it out and the pump can’t get it out,” she says. “And there have been times when the dads have been successful at clearing the blockage.” She added that the fathers’ teeth sometimes make this a bit complicated.

None of the lactation experts or OB-GYNs we spoke to said they had noticed a real adult breastfeeding trend in the United States, but they also weren’t particularly surprised to hear that it was a common search query.

“If you put women who are nursing together with partners who are having sex, then it’s bound to happen,” said Felina Rakowski-Gallagher, founder and president of the Upper Breast Side lactation center in New York City. “And if it’s bound to happen and there are no negative consequences, maybe it’s something that Mother Nature intended.”

But if asked, most American men say they’re definitely not into drinking milk directly from their wife’s breast. George Silva, a 42-year old banker from Caracas, Venezuela told me he “never considered” tasting his wife’s milk while she was nursing their two children, now 8 and 5. “I never heard of a man who wanted to try it,” his wife Lisa said.

“I had no urge whatsoever,” said Anthony, a 43-year-old New York wine salesman who asked that his last name not be used. “And there was tons of it.”

Perhaps husband breastfeeding is a global phenomenon that hasn’t caught on in the United States yet. “It’s happening around the world, not just in India, but in China and Europe” said Dr. Diane Spatz, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing who also works at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “Men think, ‘oh there are all these health benefits of human milk, so if I’m a man, and I want to make myself healthier, then this is what I’m gonna do,'” she said, adding that the effects of breast milk on adults have not been extensively studied.

And obviously there’s a difference between an occasional sip and regular feeding. “My concern about it is that if this is happening, then the baby might not be getting access to the mom’s own milk,” says Spatz.

But even if this is happening in India, as the search numbers suggest, Indian women are hardly nursing their husbands in the streets. “This is completely new to me, I don’t see that as a common phenomenon in India” said Effath Yasmin, a Lactation Consultant who runs Nourish & Nurture Lactation Care & Parenting Education in Mumbai, India. “But we’re from a very conservative culture and women perhaps would not approach professionals to discuss about this. That could be why they’re maybe looking for it on the internet.”

Some experts say that adult breastfeeding might also have an element of jealousy to it, and that the breastmilk fetish might come from the fact that the breast’s sexual and nutritional functions are getting confused. “The breast has a day job and a night job,” Dr. Walsh says. “The breast used to be the man’s play-toy, and suddenly the baby is coming in and playing with daddy’s favorite play-toy.”

“Is it bad?” she asked. “Who cares?”

 

 

 

TIME Pregnancy

Sex, Breastfeeding and Cheesecake: What The World Searches For While Pregnant

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Getty Images

Google searches reveal that Indian couples search for "sex" more than couples in any other country. Also "my husband wants me to breastfeed him."

Expectant couples all over the world are concerned about how pregnancy will affect their sex lives, but Indian couples seem especially worried. India’s top five Google searches for “How to ___ while pregnant” include “have sex,” “do sex,” and just plain “sex.”

And to confuse matters further, India’s top search (by far) for “my husband wants me to ___” is “my husband wants me to breastfeed him.” Which means that expectant couples in India are both really into sex and really into adult breastfeeding.

Men and women in the US, Britain, Australia, and South Africa also asked the internet how to have sex while pregnant, but people in Nigeria also asked how to “make love,” according to a Google Search analysis by the New York Times.

Other results showed a widespread preoccupation with avoiding stretch marks, sleeping, and losing weight.

The top search results for “Can pregnant women ___?” also varied by country. Most of the results were about eating certain foods and drinking coffee, but sex only broke the top five search terms in India, Mexico, and Nigeria.

Pregnant Brazilian women took a whole different tack. Popular searches for what pregnant women can do in Brazil include: “dye their hair,” “ride a bike,” and “fly.” Meanwhile, Google searches for Britain and Australia are dominated entirely by food queries (Can pregnant women eat mayonnaise? Cheesecake? Prawns?) while Nigeria, Singapore, Mexico and the US seem concerned with drinking coffee.

Only people in Mexico were searching for whether pregnant women can wear heels.

TIME Education

The Dress Code Wars Continue

Texas students riot to protest the school's dress code as rules about students' outfits continue to distract

Most high schools will argue that dress codes are created and enforced because students’ clothing, if not monitored, will become distracting in the classroom. And yet this year dress codes seem to be derailing school work more than the outfits themselves.

More than 160 students at Duncanville High School in Texas were suspended last week for violating the school’s dress code. The kids who were sent home were told they could not stay in class for a range of violations: not wearing belts, forgetting their name tags, wearing the wrong colored shirt or having stubble on their faces. One student was even told that an official school spirit shirt was out of dress code because it didn’t have a collar.

The crackdown led to a spontaneous mass protest at the school, according to Fox Dallas-Fort Worth. Hundreds of students, upset that they were tossed from school during critical review classes before finals, began turning over trash cans and yelling in the halls. Videos posted to social media show students chanting “f–k dress code,” yelling and starting a fight. Police had to be called in to restore order, though no arrests were made.

Though the school argues that it has been enforcing dress code all year, students staged a sit in the day after the riot to protest what they say was an out-of-the-blue crackdown. A Change.org petition to repeal the dress code had 538 supporters as of Monday morning.

The riot comes just months after middle school students at a school in the Chicago suburbs protested their school’s rules against leggings. Students and parents argued that teachers and administrators were unfair to tell girls to cover up rather than teaching boys not to objectify their peers.

While school administrators maintain that girls wearing leggings will keep boys from paying attention in class or that boys’ chin stubble demonstrates a lack of respect for the learning environment, the protests against these rules are taking more time away from school work than any of these small infractions would.

TIME Sex

Why the ‘Hookup Generation’ Does Not Need to Learn How to Date

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Hero Images—Getty Images/Hero Images

Exploring the absurdity of a Boston College class that requires students to go on dates

Over the weekend, an article in the Boston Globe highlighted a class at Boston College in which the professor offers extra credit to students if they ask another student out on a date. (The date is mandatory in another one of her seminars.) The rules: it must be a legitimate love interest; they must ask in person (not via text, etc.); the love interest cannot know the date is an assignment; and the date must last 45-90 minutes and cannot involve any sexual contact. Professor Kerry Cronin argues that the exercise will teach college kids ingrained in the so-called “hookup culture” the lost art of dating.

Well I’m here to inform that professor that we 20-somethings don’t need help, thank you very much.

It’s true that dating has probably become less common on college campuses since the 1950s—or at least the Archie Comics version of dating where a boy and a girl sip a milkshake together through two straws. Instead college kids have discovered an even better way to find a significant other.

Professor Cronin has three main concerns: college students no longer have the confidence to ask one another out on dates; so they instead resort to group hangouts, which erodes the dating culture; and hookups have supplanted relationships. Let me address these concerns one at a time.

I’ll concede that the number of college kids asking each other out on dates in person has probably dropped significantly. According to a 2012 Pew Research poll, 63 percent of teens exchange texts with their friends every day while only 35 percent engage in face-to-face socializations with those same people outside of school. Asking a boy or girl out via text is safer: the rejection feels less harsh on the screen than in person.

And yet despite the fact that we like to hide behind our screens, we don’t need Cronin’s lesson in “doing something courageous,” as one of Cronin’s student describes it. Two college kids may be much more likely to kiss before one of them ever asks the other out on an actual date. But I would argue that it takes as much—if not more—courage to lean in for the first kiss as it does to ask someone out.

So how do we find these mates to kiss? Often, college kids meet potential love interests hanging out in groups with friends and friends of friends or at parties. I often felt in college that hanging out with someone I liked among friends allowed me to get to know him better than going on a 45-minute date alone ever would. Spending time in extracurriculars or in social situations with a crush always made me feel much more comfortable with him once we actually began to go out and a lot more sure that I wanted to be with him.

Parties, too, felt like a much more natural venue to talk to someone than a crowded Starbucks. Dates can feel contrived, whereas a party feels organic. Being surrounded by people, music and activities gives you something to talk about. Your friends could always help you or bail you out of a bad situation. And of course there’s the liquid courage.

Before addressing the myth of hookup culture, I’ll point out that dating isn’t dead on college campuses. An informal survey of my female friends found that each had been asked out at least one time by a boy she’d never even kissed before in college. These dates, if accepted, succeeded or failed at about the same rate as a random-hookup-turned-consistent-relationship did.

But what is really at the root of my informal dating tutorial is the mass panic about college hookup culture, which is way overblown. Every few months there seems to be a renewed hysteria surrounding Generation X’s inability to commit to relationships, and every few months I endeavor to debunk this hookup culture myth. So here are the facts again:

1. “Hookup culture” refers from anything from kissing to sex

So don’t freak out, parents. “Random hookups” can often mean just kissing.

2. A very small percentage of college kids are participating in this hookup culture

Less than 15 percent of students “hookup”—meaning anything ranging from kissing to sex—more than twice per year.

3. That very small percentage is about the same as the number of people who were having uncommitted sex in past generations

A 1967 study by the Institute for Sex Research found that 68% of college men and 44% of college women reported having engaged in premarital sex—around the same as the 64 percent reported at my alma mater. Another study that compared a survey on sexual practices from 1988-1996 to one from 2004-2012 found that respondents from the later survey did not report more sexual partners, more frequent sex or more partners during the past year than respondents from the earlier survey.

4. Most college students are actually looking for a committed relationship

A study by the American Psychological Association in February 2013 found that 63 percent of college men and 83 percent of college women would prefer a traditional relationship to uncommitted sex.

5. Most students having sex are doing so with one partner consistently

The same study that compared sex practices in the 80s and 90s to now found that 78.2% of those recently surveyed reported that their sexual partner was either a spouse or a significant other, compared to 84.5% in the survey from the ’80s and ’90s.

So yes, some college students will make out with one another at a party—maybe more—and then arrange to see one another again via text message. But many of those encounters result in dates and, eventually, relationships. As Richard McAnulty, an associate professor in psychology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte points out in the Globe article, the majority of college students actually practice “serial monogamy,” in which they have consecutive, exclusive relationships. The dates are still there, they just come later—after college kids are sure they’re interested in someone else and that there’s a possibility of a longer commitment. After all, aren’t dates more enjoyable when they’re with someone you already know that you like and are sexually attracted to?

And besides, there will be plenty of time post-graduation for awkward first dates arranged by mutual friends or a myriad of dating apps (OKCupid, Coffee Meets Bagel, Tinder and Hinge to name a few). They’ll sit and explain their jobs and their majors and what they like to do for fun. It will be always uncomfortable, sometimes pleasant, occasionally horrifying. But they’ll learn how to date in the way Cronin wants.

For now, college students, enjoy four years of choosing your boyfriends and girlfriends from a group of like-minded peers whose full name and interests you’ll already know by your first date.

TIME

Some People Are Wired to Want More Sex, Brain Study Shows

If it were an app, it would be worth millions. Here’s the best way to tally up how many sex partners a paramour has had in the past year

It turns out that some people are actually wired to have more sex—or at least be really, really motivated to hook up.

Research from the University of California Los Angeles and published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience shows, thanks to an old fashioned brain recording, EEG-style, that some people’s brains are simply more sensitive to sexual cues than others — which means it takes less to get them aroused and ultimately leads them to find sexual partners.

MORE: How Changing Your Birth Control Can Make Sex Worse

Nicole Prause, an assistant research scientist in psychiatry at University of California Los Angeles, and her colleagues recruited psychology students to get an electroencephalogram of their brains and to view 225 standardized pictures of pleasant, neutral or unpleasant things. The pleasant images included sexually stimulating ones and these ranged from PG stuff like people kissing to more explicit pictures of people having sex. The students were also asked about their number of sexual partners in the past year.

Some of the participants showed strong reactions on the EEG to nearly all of the intimacy-themed images, regardless of whether they were explicit. And these were the same people who reported having more partners. Prause says the EEG is a good measure of how motivated the brain is – stronger responses typically occur when we’re faced with new and unfamiliar things, for example. In this case, the sexual cues are motivating for some.

It turns out that men and women were equally like to fall into this category; Prause’s team did not find any gender-based differences in the EEG patterns.

Does that mean some people are wired to be addicted to sex? Prause isn’t willing to go that far. “People may be more sensitive to sexual cues and engage in behaviors that aren’t helpful for them, but this study suggests you don’t need to use the label of addiction to describe that,” she says. For these people, it’s not a chasing of a “high” or a reward, but a biological sensitivity to sexual cues that sets their arousal threshold at a much lower level.

MORE: Why Science Needs More Sex

But before you track down the nearest EEG lab, Prause says the purpose of the study wasn’t to suss out the promiscuous among us. Because the EEG reading is a measure of motivation, understanding that some people’s sexual activity is a function of their biologically guided arousal should help in understanding risky sexual behavior and finding better ways to intervene.

“Being aware that if you are going out, and there is the possibility of having a new partner, and thinking about ways to not get too excited may sound silly, but managing that rather than ignoring it may help with better ways to control risky sexual behavior,” she says. We may be wired to want sex, but that doesn’t mean the wiring can’t be re-routed.

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